CMU Students Create Device to Process Payments from Fingerprints

Mar 27, 2013

People may soon be able to charge purchases to their personal accounts with the tips of their fingers, thanks to a new invention from four students at Carnegie Mellon University.

Brian Groudan, Kelly Lau-Kee, Umang Patel and Christian Reyes came together in their senior year to create PayTango, a new technology that identifies a person's fingerprint for use as a human debit card.

Companies that use PayTango would ask customers to link their fingerprints with specific debit and credit accounts. From then on, the customers would be able to simply press their fingers into a pad to make payments at that particular store — at no extra cost.

"PayTango can be used for everyday activities like paying for a morning coffee or critical scenarios like identifying patients' medical information in a hospital," Groudan said.

CMU has already installed PayTango in three of its campus restaurants and enrollment is open to all students.

Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Luis von Ahn said he thinks the technology would be more secure than credit cards, which he called "pretty insecure."

"Taking a picture of a credit card with your smart phone is pretty easy, so in some ways, it's more secure," said von Ahn, who taught the fall 2012 class in which the students created PayTango.

The budding company was accepted into the Y Combinator startup accelerator in California early this year. The four seniors gave a demonstration of PayTango to a group of investors on Tuesday, according to the university. Now, they plan to market the technology to gyms, college campuses and retailers.